mediageek radioshow headlines for 1-7-05

These are the headlines as read on the January 7, 2005 edition of the mediageek radioshow: Clear Channel CEO Awarded for Distinguished Service; Groups Say Clear Channel is Biased, anti-Localism; Indecency Legislation Reintroduced; Powell Says No Indecency Regs for Satellite; Stern Reveals Restrictions

Clear Channel CEO Awarded for Distinguished Service

Clear Channel Communications Inc. chairman Lowry Mays will receive the National Association of Broadcasters’ “Distinguished Service Award.”

The award recognizes broadcasters “who have made significant and lasting contributions to the broadcasting industry.” Past recipients include Edward R. Murrow, Bob Hope, Walter Cronkite and Oprah Winfrey.

Clear Channel is the largest radio station owner in the country, and under MaysÂ’ leadership it amassed over 1,200 stations. As a result Clear Channel has been criticized for homogenizing radio programming and making it less local. Mays has been criticized for his cutthroat management tactics that permeate the company.

The NAB, which is giving the award, is the nationÂ’s largest broadcast lobby, and has dedicated much of its resources to efforts such as loosening radio ownership regulations and the elimination of low-power FM community radio stations.

Groups Say Clear Channel is Biased, anti-Localism

In a related story, a large coalition of consumer groups has told the FCC that large consolidated media corporations, like Clear Channel, suppress important news and information, and give a biased presentation. Submitted as part of the CommissionÂ’s proceeding on the issue of broadcast localism, the group cited Clear ChannelÂ’s effort to delete the Dixie Chicks from the playlist on all its stations after the lead singer protested the invasion of Iraq.

In its own defense, Clear Channel submitted a response, saying that allegation was false and that many of its listeners called to demand that stations stop playing the Dixie Chicks. Clear Channel also told the FCC that localism isn’t in need of repair, and that being responsive to local communities does not mean full employment rights for local air talent and technicians.

Indecency Legislation Reintroduced

House Telecom Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) will reintroduce

legislation aimed at increasing broadcast indecency fines. The legislation passed in the House last year, but stalled in the Senate. The bill includes a controversial provision that would allow the FCC to fine on-air talent directly. The legislation would also institute a so-called 180-day shot clock for the FCC to decide on complaints. The bill would also make the FCC hold a license revocation hearing on any station cited 3 times for broadcasting indecent content. This last provision was fought tooth and nail in the Senate by the broadcast lobby.

Powell Says No Indecency Regs for Satellite; Stern Reveals Restrictions

In other content regulation news, during a question and answer session at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 6, FCC Chairman Michael Powell said the Commission has no interest in regulating indecency on pay TV and radio services.

Powell told the audience, “I think it’s a dangerous thing to start talking about extending government oversight of content to other media just to level the playing field,” he said.

Radio shock-jock Howard Stern made headlines last year when he announced that he would leave broadcast radio for Sirius satellite radio. One of his main reasons was to avoid indecency restrictions that have cost his employer, Infinity Communications, millions of dollars.

In response to SternÂ’s move, a California-based radio chain recently petitioned the FCC to start a rulemaking proceeding to investigate applying broadcast indecency rules to satellite radio. The FCC denied that petition.

As a side note, Stern told his listeners on January 4 that all of ViacomÂ’s employees are now required to take an indecency law test as part of a deal the media giant recently struck with the FCC. As part of that agreement, which took effect Dec. 23, Stern will be pulled off the air — and possibly fired — if the FCC lodges another formal complaint against Viacom-owned Infinity over any future Stern broadcast. Stern also described some of the language and sound-effects that Viacom believes might be considered indecent.